The perennial fuel crisis in the country is now pressuring the National Assembly to work on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that is gathering dust on the lawmakers’ table.
Despite Nigeria being the sixth largest producer of crude oil, the nation has consistently suffered from crippling fuel scarcity that has brought untold hardship to its citizens.
For weeks now, fuel queues have been a permanent feature at filling stations across the country, killing economic activities and leaving thousands of commuters stranded.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, said the Senate must take the issue of passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) seriously if scarcity of petroleum products would end in the country.
Saraki, during deliberation on a motion seeking permanent solution to recurring scarcity of petroleum products in the country at senate plenary said that with a law regulating the petroleum industry, relevant institutions would function effectively.
He urged senators not to politicize issues relating to petroleum products production and supply as they affected the live of every Nigerian.
“Scarcity has continued to plague this country and we must find a lasting solution to this problem,” he said.
After debate on the motion moved by Senator Barau Jibrin (APC Kano North), the senate directed its Committee on Petroleum Upstream to proffer a lasting solution to the recurring problem of scarcity of petroleum products.
The upper chamber sought means of collaboration with the executive to end the recurring fuel supply challenge.
It urged the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to continue its current push to stem the scarcity, and commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his commitment in tackling issues in the sector.
Moving the motion earlier, Jibrin expressed worry that scarcity, whenever it occurred, brought untold hardship on Nigerians.
He said that problem was not in line with the goals of the current administration and as such, urged the senate to liaise with the executive and other relevant stakeholders to solve the problem.
Senator Olugbenga Ashafa (APC Lagos East) recommended stringent punishment, including jail term for marketers who hoard petroleum products.
He said that such marketers contributed in making the lives of Nigerians more miserable, adding that their stations should not just be shut ‘’but they should be jailed’’.
“Some marketers derive pleasure in hoarding petroleum products; if we do not set example with such people, the dastardly acts of hoarding will continue.
“Our regulators must ensure that marketers that are hoarding are not just clamped down on but prosecuted.
“We must assist Mr President in reviving our ailing refineries; if our refineries function optimally, we will not have the problem of scarcity,” he said.
On his part, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, specifically said that the “senior’’ minister of petroleum resources should be summoned to explain the problems with fuel supply.
The senator questioned why the country still paid subsidies and experienced long queues when the present administration had in their campaign promised to end the problem.
“Many thought there will be no fuel queues under the APC but we see it everywhere; we are seeking the approval of over N400billion for payment of subsidy.
“Change has come but there is no change because we are still doing the same things; the fuel queues are still here; the subsidy payment is still there and there is no hope in sight.
“So we are asking, where is this change?
“We will ask the Minister of Petroleum to come and tell this senate what the ministry is doing to solve this problem.
“I support this motion, but I do not support the part where we are thanking a minister for not solving the problem,” he said.
Senator Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central) said that the issue of deregulation must be revisited if private investors must delve into local refining of crude.
Senator Dino Melaye (APC Kogi West) in his contribution recalled that the cost of crude has dropped from about 120 dollars per barrel to about 40 dollars per barrel.
He pointed out that the subsidy being paid was what was owed to oil marketers, and urged that the issues should not be politicized.